I recently had a chance to speak with actor Stellan Skarsgard about his work on Thor, which is available on Blu-ray and DVD starting September 13th. A few weeks ago we brought you my conversation with Skarsgard about the end credit scene from Thor, his role in The Avengers, as well as his work on the upcoming non-Marvel films The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, and Melancholia. Here is the rest of my interview with the classically trained actor about his work on Thor, director Kenneth Branagh’s vision for the film, the talented cast he assembled, and reuniting with Oscar winner Natalie Portman. Here is what he had to say:
To begin with, in many ways Thor is like two different movies that are fused together to become one. You have the first story that takes place on Earth, which you are involved in, and then the other story that takes place on Asgard. As an actor, what was it like for you working on a film of this size, and were you impressed with the final version of the movie and what director Kenneth Branagh was able to create on screen?
Stellan Skarsgard: I can say that when we shot it, it was like working on a very realistic movie and very down to earth. Then suddenly one day the Warriors Three stepped in, in funny costumes and then I was thinking, “Oh my god, how is this going to work?” I know it was of course a challenge for Kenneth to weave those two different worlds together not only in a believable way but also an interesting way and I think he really pulled it off.
Unlike many of the other actors in the film, the part you played is an original character and not from the Marvel Comics mythology. Was it freeing for you as an actor in a project like this to have the opportunity to play the part however you saw fit, rather than feeling responsibility to your comic book counterpart?
Skarsgard: I didn’t have the pressure from the fans to live up to their expectations for the character and also I didn’t have to wear spandex clothes.
Obviously the source material has many Shakespearian elements and in that sense Kenneth Branagh was the perfect choice to direct the film, but he also assembled several British actors with classical training like Anthony Hopkins, Tom Hiddleston, Idris Elba, Ray Stevenson, and yourself. Could you talk about those choices and how perhaps it felt like the perfect cast and director for this project?
Skarsgard: I Definitely felt like it was the right cast. I believe it was very well cast and I got the chance to work with Natalie Portman again. I’ve loved her dearly ever since we worked together on Goya’s Ghosts. So you could immediately tell that it was brilliantly cast. It was also cast with a lot of people that could handle, especially in the Asgard part of the film, the strong language and the almost classical Shakespearean language. Handing life to those literary characters that they actually are.
Were you at all jealous that you didn't get the opportunity to play an Asgardian and speak that regal language?
Skarsgard: No, I mean I’ve done my Shakespeare back in my theater days and I was quite happy that I didn’t have to wear their costumes because they were horrible. They had to have cooling mechanisms not to faint in them on set so I was very relaxed, very normal and very happy to play reality.
You mentioned working with Natalie Portman before and it seemed like there was an unspoken back-story between Erik and Jane, did you and Natalie work on that together and could you talk about the relationship between those two characters?
Skarsgard: Kenneth had sort of come up with a brief back-story and shared it with us. So we knew where we came from when we started working, which helps. She’s not only a very good actress but I also felt that since we worked together before, and we knew each other so well, there was that ease together that you have that is sort of tangible itself.
So you were actually able to play off of your own personal history with each other as the characters?
I understand that getting the opportunity to work with Kenneth Branagh was really the reason you decided to do the film, what was the experience like for you and did it live up to your expectations?
Skarsgard: Yeah he was one of the reasons and Natalie was the other reason. When I got on the project the script wasn’t ready yet. I mean there was a script but they were still working on it and of course his input was paramount for everything. With his background in English theater and Shakespearean narrative he knew how to handle the realm of Asgard. He could also get all those actors from different universes together and be in the same film. I mean he’s a very funny man. You laugh a lot when you’re on his set.
Finally, since you mention it, there is a lot of humor in the film especially from Kat Denning’s character, Darcy Lewis. Since you shared many of your scenes with her, was it difficult balancing the humor with all the action?
Skarsgard: No and I mean we had so much fun doing it. Sitting in that car with Kat Dennings and Natalie Portman was a bazaar experience for me. I mean between the takes their mouths were gong off like I don’t know what? A lot of “girl talk.” So I got a little insight on what it is to be a young girl in her ‘20s today.
Thor is available on Blu-ray and DVD now!